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Dear Color Crew: How Can I Cover My Gray Without Coloring the Rest of My Hair?

by October 16, 2019

Covering My Gray Roots

Image by Madison Reed

Dear Color Crew is a recurring blog post where we answer hair-related questions—no matter how hairy they may be—from readers like you. Got a question? Go to to get in touch with our team of professional colorists.

Dear Color Crew,

I need to color my grays every few weeks—but I don’t want to have to color my hair every time. How do I ONLY color my grays?

We get asked this a lot, and we love this question because it’s one of the most important things to know when coloring your own hair: you should NOT color your whole head every time you need to cover your grays or touch up your roots. This is because previously colored hair can be a bit more porous, which means it accepts color faster. Repeatedly coloring your hair every time you need to do your roots will actually make the color on your mid-lengths and ends look dull and too dark, causing your color to become oversaturated. With that in mind, we have more than a few fantastic ways to cover your grays without coloring the rest of your hair to keep your color looking gorgeous...

How To Touch Up Your Roots With Permanent Color

The best way to get long-lasting coverage on your new growth and grays is by simply touching up your roots without adding color to the rest of your hair. We promise, this is not as complicated as it may sound. Here are tips to touch up like a pro:

  • Use a comb to section your hair into 4 parts. Secure with clips. This makes it easier to saturate each section thoroughly.

  • For precise application, we recommend using a bowl and brush rather than applying with just the bottle.

  • Start applying where you see the most gray hair, and where your grays are more resistant to color. This is usually at the front hairline and at the natural part of your hair.
  • Using the pointed end of your brush or a comb, create thin sections of hair, flipping them as you would a page in a book. Apply the color at the root, then flip a thin section over, and do the next, etc.

  • When coloring new growth, you usually only have to color ½ inch or less.

  • Be generous with your color. Saturation is key to great coverage.

  • If you want to refresh the color on your mid-lengths and ends at the same time, you can apply Color Reviving Gloss in a shade that complements your color. Just apply the gloss starting where you stopped your root color. Don’t worry if they overlap! You’ll want the permanent color to process on your roots for 35-45 minutes, and the gloss to process for up to 35 minutes.

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How to Touch Up Your Roots With Demi-Permanent Color

If you don’t want to go the permanent color route, you can also cover your grays and roots with a demi-permanent color like Root Reboot. The sponge tip applicator makes this super easy—simply apply to your hairline and at your part line. Again, saturation is key, so don’t be shy with application. Let it process for 10 minutes (15 minutes for more resistant grays), and your roots are covered for 2 weeks.

Touching Up with Root Reboot

How to Touch Up Your Roots With Temporary Powder

Of course sometimes you don’t realize you need to touch up your roots until you’re a few minutes from leaving your house. Or you’re in the bathroom at a restaurant and see those grays glinting in the mirror. Good thing you can instantly cover your roots and grays with Root Touch Up powder. It couldn’t be easier...just brush it on anywhere you see grays or outgrowth. The powder sets right away and stays put until your next shampoo. Pro Tip: stash one in your purse, bag, or car—you never know when you might need it!

Using Root Touch Up

(Super stealth Pro Tip? You can also use Root Touch Up to fill in your eyebrows.)

So there you have it. The #1 rule of coloring your hair: DO NOT COLOR ALL OF YOUR HAIR EVERY TIME YOU NEED TO TOUCH UP YOUR ROOTS. The ALL CAPS is not us yelling at you, but us enthusiastically thanking you for this question, because it honestly is the most important rule when it comes to hair color. Luckily, there are easy options for touching up your roots yourself. 

Keep your questions coming! The Color Crew loves to help!